The Call Out Of Africa

The most memorable moment at the recent Antwerp Diamond Conference came from the formidable Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, South Africa's minister of mines. Clad in blue African robes, she forcefully argued for bringing more cutting to Africa, and then took questions. The Gemological Institute of America's Russell Shor asked if her country could compete with other centers that have lower labor costs—a standard query, but Mlambo treated it like a relic from another century. "The diamond industry has to get diamonds from South Africa," she shot back. "And we will make sure they need us." End of answer. The amused moderator, Chaim Even-Zohar, asked: "Does that answer your question?" For most, it did. The issue of "beneficiation"—basically, ensuring that diamonds mined in a country are cut there, providing jobs for locals in the process—was barely on the industry's agenda one year ago. It

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